By Steve Robinson | September 21, 2020 - 10:25 pm
Posted in Category: Normal Town Council, The Normalite

NORMAL – Normal Town Council members approved an ordinance approving a 4 cents per gallon increase in the Town’s Local Motor Fuel Tax, effective Dec. 1. The vote came after a one hour, 32-minute discussion, and was approved by a 4-3 count during the governing body’s regularly-scheduled meeting held remotely Monday.

Following the discussion, Mayor Chris Koos, joined by Council Members Karyn Smith, Chemberly Cummings, and Kevin McCarthy voted to approve the measure while Council Members Kathleen Lorenz, Stan Nord, and Scott Preston voted to oppose the increase.

Koos opened the discussion on increasing the Motor Fuel Tax amount by saying the Town was choosing what would be the best of four possible options to help the Town increase dollars for the Town’s general fund. The other options Koos mentioned included an increase in either local property tax, reducing available services from the Town, or doing nothing.

Smith stated her support by reminding “road work is expensive, and it’s a fact of life that most road projects are, at least six figures. She pointed out the Town is responsible for 430 miles worth of roads within Normal. She cited that’s enough pavement to stretch in-State from Rockford to Cairo. To do that, she added, “Is expensive.”

“Our citizens want more infrastructure, plain and simple,” said McCarthy. “They are reaching out saying they want more – they’re demanding more, and there’s a cost to doing more. It’s that simple. This is the best of not great options.”

“We have also – all Council members – heard from a tremendous amount of our citizens who do not want to see their local motor fuel tax increased, at this point in time during a global pandemic,” Preston countered. “That is an important piece that I don’t want to have missed in this conversation.”

While she said she understood road upkeep was important, Lorenz said Normal should be addressing how the Town prioritizes spending its general fund dollars. She said although the proposed increase will bring $1 million into that specific coffer, “the number in my mind, very conservatively, we need to bring in is $2 million,” and do so on an annual basis.

She said she has been lobbying for a combination of spending cuts and new revenue sources which would benefit the Town. She added she had “a hard time” accepting the ordinance as it is currently written.

Two Town residents – one in favor of the increase, the other opposed to it – addressed Council members in public comments prior to the discussion on the proposed increase. Normal resident Patrick Dullard spoke in favor of the tax increase explaining, “I believe it’s important to equal Bloomington, especially on a commodity-based tax. “IO think the Motor Fuel Tax spreads around to many users of the roads system, including many out-of-towners therefore lessening the burden on Normal residents.”

Resident Brad McMillan told Council members he opposed the increase, explaining, “Raising the gas tax during this pandemic will hurt those Normal residents most who have lost jobs or significant income during this historically difficult time.” He said adding the cost onto the budgets of struggling families would be, in his words, “Unwise public policy.”

Saying he understands Town infrastructure upkeep must be ongoing, McMillan encouraged Council members and citizens “to look together to find a way to make this happen without adding a heavy burden on those less fortunate in our community during this already tough time.”

Tax Dollars From Cannabis Sales To Begin Arriving In October: With increased incoming Motor Fuel Tax dollars not slated to come in until December, Nord asked City Manager Pam Reece when the Town would begin to see tax dollars coming from cannabis sales, which was approved On May 31, 2019, when the Illinois General Assembly passed the Illinois Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act to legalize recreational marijuana. The State allowed for those sales to begin starting on January 1, 2020. Governor J.B. Pritzker signed the bill June 25, 2019. Revenue from those sales in Illinois was anticipated to reach roughly $1.6 billion annually.

Reece responded the Town anticipated beginning cannabis tax money starting in October.

Amended Site Plan For Evergreen Village Approved: By a unanimous vote, Council members passed a resolution approving an amended site plan for Evergreen Village, 1701 Evergreen Village Blvd.

Evergreen Village officials sought the amended site plan in order to add a second building, two stories high which would serve as a unit to aid residents with memory issues. The new building would be located northwest of the current 3-story assisted living building on the property, and the two buildings would be connected by a single story walkway.

Council members originally approved the site plan for the facility in 2006.

Omnibus Agenda Items Approved: Omnibus agenda items approved by the Council included:

• Approval of minutes of special meeting held Sept. 2, 2020.

• Approval of minutes of work session held Sept. 8, 2020.

• Approval of minutes of regular Council meeting held Sept. 8, 2020.

• Report to receive and file Town expenditures for payment as of Sept. 16, 2020.

• A resolution authorizing execution of an intergovernmental agreement with Illinois State University pertaining to fire service protection.

• A resolution reapproving the final plat of the Iden Subdivision (105-111 W. Locust St.).

• An ordinance amending Chapter 18 of the Town Municipal Code (Personnel) concerning the salary schedule for classified employees.

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